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They burned the Monte Carlo ... and may get away with it
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They burned the Monte Carlo ... and may get away with it
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One of the advantages of availing oneself of Las Vegas' public-transit system is that affords me plenty of time to read corporate filings. Such was the case this morning, when I spent some quality time belatedly curling up with Las Vegas Sands' 2Q08 report.
There's been some scattered evidence, here and there, that Palazzo and Venetian are leeching off one another instead of devouring others' market share. For instance, their combined operating income only slightly exceeded that of hard-hit Sands Macao during the first six months of 2008.
But LVS' decision to mulch together several categories of Palazzo/Venetian revenue clouds the picture of each megaresort's impact on the other. Instead of clear-cut comparisons between Venetian and Palazzo retail, entertainment and F&B revenues, LVS offers some cumed numbers for both properties, followed by two paragraphs of uninformative bombast.
The Venetian: older but (performing) better
The most interesting sentence in the entire filing was this disclosure: "The Venetian's occupancy of available guestrooms decreased to 90.6% [in 2Q08] ... as we chose to spread a portion of The Venetian's booked business over the 7,100 total suite inventory of the combined Venetian and Palazzo complex." If that means what I think it means, LVS was shifting bookings to Palazzo to bulk up the latter's occupancy rate, which clocked in at 93%. (Venetian occupancy was 101% a year ago.) Although Venetian ADRs were just smidgen higher than Palazzo ones, the latter produced 2% more revenue per room. Overall, a 51.7% increase in rooms brought a 52.6% uptick in room revenues. So far, so good.
Despite a comparable number of table games (131 to 128), Venetian absolutely clobbered Palazzo there, generating 37% more win per table. At the slots, the older property came out 22% ahead, largely by dint of having 300 more machines at its disposal.
The opening of Venetian Macao appears to have really kneecapped Sands Macao. Hotel occupancy actually rose but ADRs plummeted 32%. Slot win per machine was up 16%, perhaps because 305 machines had been yanked from the floor, but slot business was still competitive with Venetian Macao. Table play was better (+14% per table) at Venetian Macao, though, even with a significantly higher number of gambling positions.
Lesson: Sometimes more is more. (Does this make Sands Macao the de facto 'slot joint'?)
In a month Four Season Macao opens, whereupon things should get very interesting. The mid-sized (by LVS standards) Marina Bay project in Singapore is pegged for a 4Q09 debut, but management's official statements are vague about the opening date for Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem. Going with LVS there was one of the relatively few decisions Pennsylvania's gaming commission got spectacularly right, selecting a developer who had the cattle to go with the hat.
Remember: A rival bidder was cheapskate Columbia Sussex, parent of insolvent Tropicana Entertainment, and heaven only knows what a mess the Bethelehem project would be if the Keystone State had gone that route. It might make the Don Barden trainwreck in Pittsburgh look like a mere fender-bender.
It's a metaphysical certainty that, regardless of when it opens, Sands Bethlehem will be the poshest of the Pennsylvania casinos, setting the standard for any that follow. It not only extends the LVS brand (however you define it) into new markets, the cash flow will provide a reassuring hedge against growing (over?)exposure in Macao.
Also, with debt creeping upward -- but still well short of backbreaking Harrah's-like levels -- and early retirement of same down 62% in the first half of '08 (and practically nonexistent in 2Q08) LVS could definitely use the extra money.
Curtains for downtown arena? Bits and pieces of the acreage accumulated for the REI Neon arena/condo/casino/anything-else-you-can-think-of project are being peddled off. I have to agree with the Sun's editors here and add that I've suspected for a while that REI Neon was but a stalking horse for opening up what used to be (part of) the Arts District to casinos.
Then again, anybody foolhardy enough to build a casino out on that fringe of downtown Vegas would be so isolated from both the Strip and the downtown gaming district that he'd be unlikely to scare up the needed critical mass of traffic. Besides, I don't know if you fellows behind that stalking horse have noticed, but the casino-centric business model has already been tried downtown and found wanting. The word "diversification" mean anything?